Health: Get help to stop smoking

By Debbie Howes Fleming Published:

The leading cause of preventable death and illness is the use of tobacco, especially cigarette smoking. This year over 444,000 people in the U.S. will die from tobacco related illnesses. More people die from the use of tobacco than from alcohol, motor vehicle accidents, drug abuse, suicide, complications of HIV/AIDS and murder combined.

It is the number one risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease and stroke, for lung, bladder, pancreatic, esophageal and larynx cancers and for complications from chronic diseases such as diabetes.

In 2008, the smoking rate among United States adults fell below 20 percent. It is the first time the rate has been that low since smoking rate statistics have been kept. Experts contribute the decline to several reasons.

First, the scientific evidence is clear that tobacco use, including secondhand smoke, kills people. Clean indoor air ordinances that require smokers to not smoke around other people also help to decrease smoking rates. Increasing the tax on cigarettes causes a rise in price. This increase not only encourages smokers to quit, it also discourages youth from starting.

One in five Americans still smokes cigarettes. According to the American Cancer Society, 90 percent of all smokers know they should quit for their health and want to quit. Each year around 70 percent of smokers will attempt to quit, but most will not be successful in their attempt. It usually takes the average smoker six separate tries to become a non-smoker before they are successful.

Why is it so hard to quit?

Nicotine, a drug found in tobacco, is one of the most addictive substances known. It is more addictive than alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or heroin. Since most smokers do not recognize their drug addiction, they do not have a plan to deal with their nicotine withdrawal symptoms. It is the combination of nicotine addiction, psychological and social factors that causes most cessation failures.

The smokers who are successful at becoming non-smokers have several common traits. They usually have consulted a healthcare provider about quitting since they believe they will be better off as non-smokers. Generally, they have recognized that they are addicted to nicotine, but they are determined to quit. They have sought advice and have developed a plan to deal with withdrawal symptoms.

A combination of stop smoking methods using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products along with individual or group counseling provides the best results. The Franklin County Health Department (FCHD) offers the Cooper Clayton Behavioral Approach to Cessation or as it is better known, Cooper/Clayton. The program combines NRT with a twelve-week cessation program. It is one of the most successful cessation programs available.

The introductory session to the Cooper/Clayton program will be held on Aug. 22 at noon. The program will be at the FCHD’s Public Health Center at 851 East-West Connector. For more information or to register for the program, call 564-5559.

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